In Silence and Stretching

A chaplain finds his vocation Q&A with Jonathan Lewis

Jonathan Lewis

With an undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in religion and an MDiv from Duke Divinity School, Jonathan Lewis is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church and a board-certified chaplain working on a doctor of ministry degree in pastoral counseling at Memphis Theological Seminary. He works for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, Tennessee.

As you carry out your vocation as a chaplain, how do you answer the biblical call to care for body and spirit?  

The division that I work for at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is called the “Faith and Health Division,” and that is an important title. I don’t believe that you are doing comprehensive health care only caring for bodies, only addressing thigh bones, sinus infections, and lab values. To care for the whole person is to also care for the spirit, to acknowledge the spiritual, emotional, and mental factors that affect all of us, all the time. As a chaplain, I am able to focus on the spiritual well-being of those I serve, and connect that to bodily well-being.

In what ways would you say your work brings healing to your life or to the lives of others?

I am often amazed at the impact a chaplain can have merely by being present and attentive to the story of someone in the hospital, or elsewhere. Many times, a person has stopped me and recounted an instance when I visited them in the hospital, telling me how meaningful it was. I think this speaks to the healing we can offer in a very short amount of time when we stop to listen, to understand, and to care.

What spiritual practice makes you better at your work?

So much of the spiritual world is revealed in moments of silence, or at least, quiet. If you have participated in a good retreat, taken up meditation, practiced intentional breathing, or found a unique revelation in the stillness and solitude of nature, you probably already believe this. I have often found the path to an important moment, conversation, or insight with someone I’m listening to when I am able to be still and let the person to continue to talk, or even a time when no one speaks. Silence makes us better at all kinds of things, including hearing ourselves and hearing God.

What would you tell someone who feels called to work similar to yours?

Pursue that calling! People have often said to me, “Hospital chaplain? I don’t think I could do it.” They may be right, but what if they’re wrong? I usually respond by saying, “You might be surprised.” There is tremendous value in exploring your interests and things that call to you, especially when those things scare you a little, when they stretch and challenge you.
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